Sunday, January 31, 2010

January Recap

When we made our budget for January, we did so ignoring the fact that I would get paid for the clubs that I moderate and that my husband would receive an extra paycheck. Also, I am still having trouble sticking to a written budget. I put everything into Excel and then neglected to input any receipts. But I guess for this month it didn't really matter, because I am still quite pleased with how we did.

Savings - $1750
Roth IRA - $500 (I didn't transfer for it over yet, but I put it in a separate savings account for right now. I'll probably just write a check every few months.)
Student loans - $700

I'm also happy to report that I managed to survive the month without cable. I haven't received the lower bill yet, so I don't know exactly how much we will be saving. What is interesting though, is that for the first time ever our electric bill was less than it was for the month last year. I'm excited to see if this trend continues now that I'm barely watching any television.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

1 Year Subscription to ReadyMade - $6

Right now a one year subscription to ReadyMade is just $6 on Amazon! I took advantage of this great deal and renewed my subscription. Best of all, it was completely free because of gift cards that I earned from Swagbucks.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Simple and Perfect Tomato Sauce

I've made this tomato sauce with butter and onions for the past two days, and it was so ridiculously delicious, but yet so ridiculously simple. All it takes is a can of tomatoes, half a stick of butter, and an onion cut in half. Throw it in a pot and let it simmer for 45 minutes. That's it! See more details and gorgeous food photos at Smitten Kitchen.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Threadless Tee for Haiti

Threadless has a new design with all proceeds going to help the relief effort in Haiti. The text of the tee reads: "Men anpil chay pa lou," which means "Many Hands Make the Load Lighter."

Monday, January 18, 2010

Things My Mother Said Would Kill Me #1

I made pork tenderloin for dinner tonight, but sadly, it didn't turn out too well. I think that more of the issue has to do with my prejudice against pork, rather than the actual dinner itself. The prejudice against pork is odd because I have no qualms with bacon or ribs, but this just made me feel... nervous.

I will definitely blame my parents for this. Every so often we would have pork chops for dinner, which my father would turn to rubber and ash on the grill, because my mother was terrified that we would die from undercooked pork. We would eat the charred pork, talk about how terrible it was but be thankful that it wouldn't kill us, and then repeat the process a few weeks later.

Last year, my husband and I tried to make pulled pork. It was okay. Just okay. When we were at the supermarket I randomly picked up a pork tenderloin because people are always talking about how great it was. I thought maybe that if I could get past my childhood issues and eat meat that was cooked correctly, then maybe I would be a convert and a whole new world of dinner choices would open up to me.

No. The entire process was terrifying. I put it in a frying pan to brown it, and I was immediately dismayed that it wasn't actually turning brown. When I cooked it in the oven, the thermometer wasn't reading properly, and then when I cut into it, I was saddened to see it slightly pink. I googled it, and the internet told me it was safe, but all through dinner I just felt ill at ease. We were going to have the leftovers tomorrow, and like a kid again, I was trying to think of excuses not to have to eat it. Thankfully my husband felt the same uneasiness, so we got rid of it.

Now, everything tells us that it was perfectly safe and cooked properly, but I could just hear my mother telling me all the ways it could kill me.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

$5 Music on Amazon

Amazon had some amazing albums for just $5 right now. Here are some that I love, but there are 800!

Regina Spektor 11:11 eleven eleven

Lady GaGa - The Fame

Radiohead - OK Computer

Use gift certificates from Swagbucks to get the albums for free!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

A Grand Day Out

I just got home from a long day in Manhattan. We tried to go to the Tim Burton exhibit at MoMA, but it was way too crowded and ended up being sold out for the day. It would have been free with my husband's work ID. After that didn't work out we kind of wandered aimlessly for a bit, which was lovely since it was a beautiful day out today.

We eventually ended up down by Union Square in search of a restaurant that I didn't really know the name or location of, which led to more wandering. We stumbled upon Wildwood BBQ, which we had been meaning to try for some time. We ended up running up our most expensive restaurant bill ever, but paid in cash that my mom had given us for our wedding anniversary. Including the tip it was $110, and $39 of that was for drinks.

After dinner we walked a million avenues to see The Nature Theater of Oklahoma perform a crazy misheard version of Romeo and Juliet, which was pretty hilarious.

Now we are back home, drinking iced tea for a bit before bed.

Friday, January 15, 2010

I made an extra $800 this month!

Twice a year I get paid for the clubs that I moderate at school. Seeing two checks in my mailbox at school is always a delight! So along with my regular check, I got paid $800 extra. I will be donating some of that extra money to relief efforts in Haiti, and I will put the rest towards savings. Now that the emergency fund is in place, we get to start saving for even more awesome things - like a house!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Put Your Money Where Your Heart Is

Today my homeroom started a collection so that they can donate money to Haiti. Only about half of the kids had cash with them today, but they really wanted to contribute so I won't be sending the money until tomorrow. We already collected $40. I saw quite a few kids give all the cash that they had in their wallets because they were so eager to help.

Once I get all the money I will be sending it, along with my own donation, to Doctors Without Borders. There are a lot of kids who have family in Haiti, and the stories are pouring in with so many stories of loss. Please send money if you can. It all adds up and it all makes a difference.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

An Impromptu Grammar Lesson

Today I noticed this on the back of one of the chairs in my classroom:

Do I teach these kids nothing?! I used it in all of my classes to go over the difference between your and you're. The kids were cracking up as I explained that you can say, "Your face is ugly!" or "You're ugly!" I told them that I was just so disappointed that the graffiti was grammatically incorrect.

It's funny, because it was the best response that I have ever gotten for a grammar lesson. I think I may go around the school tomorrow and take pictures of more graffiti to see if I can use any of that to teach them any other lessons.

Sometimes my job exhausts me and I want to run away. I have to remember that I play an important role in helping these kids use proper grammar while they vandalize the desks and chairs in my classroom.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Is this my dumbest purchase?

Today I received a package from Etsy. I opened it up, excited that it finally came since it had been thought to be lost in the mail. As I unwrapped it, my husband, who had been standing beside me commented, "What the hell is that?!"

Well, it was a bar of felted soap. When I bought the soap, it seemed like a really good idea at the time. It's a washcloth! And soap! In one! I marveled at the thought and read reviews about how the wool would do something magical. Okay, I admit, I have absolutely no idea how I justified this to myself, except for the fact that it looked really cute.

So anyway, my husband took one look at it and then at me, trying to explain that this was magical or something, and he just said, "That is the dumbest thing you have ever bought. Honestly, name something dumber."

"I definitely have bought stupider things," I argued, trying to think of a purchase that would beat this. I've bought clothes I've never worn, and purses I've never carried. I've bought bizarre kitchen items, such as the potato scrubber shaped as a potato and the apple slicer shaped like an apple. I've been pressured into buying countless add-ons and warranties for products that I didn't need. But yeah, felted soap might be the silliest thing ever.

So, what is the weirdest, silliest, or dumbest thing you've ever bought?

Monday, January 11, 2010

Trying to Get Rid of Clutter

In the past I would sign up for every freebie that was available online. This included a lot of magazine subscriptions, which would just pile up unread. Seeing the huge pile of unread magazines made me feel like clutter was taking over my apartment. It made my husband absolutely crazy. Now I find myself much more discerning in what I sign up for, and I am a lot happier for it.

I'm actually feeling relief that some of my many magazine subscriptions are starting to expire. I recently purged the bookshelf and just seeing empty space is making me feel so much more relaxed. Just because something is free, doesn't mean that I need to get it. If it isn't something that I need or even want, having it around is just not worth it.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

I heart Trader Joe's!

We went to Trader Joe's yesterday and bought $120 worth of stuff. I'm really happy with what we got though, because now I have a full freezer of delicious things that will make cooking during the week a lot easier. I've been cooking too many pasta and casserole type creations lately, and I want to cook more dinners that consist of separate proteins, grains, and vegetables. Today I cooked the "Cabernet Beef Pot Roast" in the crock pot and it was amazing! We shredded the leftovers and I'm going to figure out something to make for the next few days.

I also got the dark chocolate covered pomegranate seeds. LOVE!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

$740 on Glasses and Contacts - Yikes!

It's been a very expensive day. Both my husband and I wear glasses, and we haven't gotten new ones in quite some time. At first we both planned to go, but then I relieved that the bill would be so disgustingly expensive, that he just went instead since his glasses are in really bad shape and the anti-glare coating is all scratched. Turns out that one of his lenses was WAY too strong, which is scary since he has been having really bad headaches for the past few years. Hopefully getting the prescription fixed will help him. Anyway, the damage ended up being $600. Yikes.

Now I know that we could buy cheaper frames and lenses, but given that we wear them pretty much all day every day, it just makes sense for us to spend more money on them. Plus, his prescription is so bad that if we didn't get him the really expensive thin lenses, then they would constantly fall out of the frames.

Since we were already spending insane amounts of money on eyewear, I decided to reorder my contacts since I had one right lens left (Yeah, don't know how that happened) and that ended up costing $140. At least I will be getting 5% back from Ebates.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Day 5 without Cable

I was talking with a friend today about how we just got rid of cable. I always knew that I wasted a lot of time, but he made me really sad when we figured out that I was passively watching (I mean that I would watch random things on television, rather than specific shows that I enjoy) over 3-4 hours of television a day. "Wow," he commented, "that was over one full day each week."

I've always complained that I didn't have enough time. Well, there it is, being squandered away in endless Law and Order or TLC marathons that I didn't even care about. I thought that I would freak out without cable, but so far I don't miss it one bit. Granted we are only on day eight of 2010, but I have kept all of my daily resolutions thus far. I feel better and my mind feels less cloudy. Instead of staring at the television, I have been reading and writing - the two things that I've always longed to do, but never really prioritized in my life.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Money and Marriage

I saw this on NPR via Facebook:

NPR is looking to interview a married couple in which the wife has more education and a higher income than her husband. If you are both willing to talk about how it affects the dynamics of your marriage, please tell us a bit about yourself. Ideally, we are seeking couples ages 30-44.

My husband and I have the exact same level of education (Master's degrees) and more or less similar incomes, though with a recent promotion he will be about 4k ahead of me now. I minored in Women's Studies in college, so the question posed by NPR is kind of making me roll my eyes. I know that if I made substantially more money than my husband, his only response would be along the lines of, "Yay! Money!"

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

How much would you spend on _____________?

Inspired by Budgets are Sexy, Krystal, and Fabulously Broke.

My answers:

Purse (or Wallet): I've spent close to $400 for a purse. I think I'd go up to $500.
Winter jacket: $400
A pair of (knee-high) boots: $250
Formal dress (or suit): $300
Pants (inc. jeans): $150
Computer: $3000
Tennis Shoes: $100

Yes, I clip coupons. Yes, I carry a $400 purse.

My husband's answers:

Purse (or Wallet): $50 (He argued me on this because he claims guys don't buy wallets. They receive them as gifts and use them until they get a new one.)
Winter jacket: $200
A pair of boots: $75
Suit: $500
Pants (inc. jeans): Pants - $100/ Jeans - $40
Computer: $1500
Tennis Shoes: He thinks he is too fancy to wear sneakers.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Vegetarian Times $5 on Amazon

Right now Amazon has a one year subscription to Vegetarian Times for just $5. This is a savings of 89% off of the cover price.

Use an Amazon gift card from Swagbucks and get it for free!

Monday, January 4, 2010

We Finally Got Rid of Cable

Today we downgraded to basic cable, so our bill will be going from $130 to around $90. My husband and I had been talking about doing this for awhile, but we always made some excuse to keep cable. We decided to rejoin Netflix instead, so it will end up being about a $25 savings each month.

Honestly, this decision has almost nothing to do with money. Instead, it has more to do with the fact that we were just wasting tremendous amounts of time everyday watching stupid things on television that we didn't even care about. Between hulu, Netflix, and the few channels that we have left, we will still have plenty to watch, but at least now we will be watching consciously instead of just staring blankly at the television for hours at a time.

I was a little bit horrified when I turned on the television when I came home and I saw all the missing channels. But interestingly enough, I was worried about what other people would think when they saw that we didn't have cable. As if I have hordes of people coming through my apartment and watching my TV!

I think that this will be a positive change for us. Not only will we be saving a little bit of money, but we will be gaining a lot more time.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Free Stuff of 2009!

I like to keep track of all the free stuff I get over the course of the year, to show how it all really adds up. $3 here and there might not seem like much, but when I see it in a yearly total, it proves to me that all the effort was worth it.

Paid Survey Sites:

$84 - Pinecone Research
$20.95 - HCD Surveys
$2 - UCLA
$25 in Amazon gift cards - Baker Street Solutions
$35 in Amazon gift cards - The Socratic Forum

$305 in Amazon gift cards
$5 Alice gift card

Cash Back and Rewards Programs:
$75 in Banana Republic gift cards - MyPoints
$66.84 - Ebates

Cash Total: $219.79
Gift Card Total: $445

You can see what I got for free in 2008 here!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Puppies Led Me Astray

I went shopping with my mom today, and I'm happy to report that I didn't buy anything crazy. I actually made a list of things that I needed to get at the mall and I stuck to the list. Later on however, I went to Barnes and Noble with my husband and family, and apparently forgot that we had just made a budget. One of my seemingly crazy purchases was a memory game with adorable puppies (since I am apparently five years old) that I thought was 50% off. It turns out that the game wasn't on sale and I pretty much got made fun of mercilessly for it.

When we got home we were playing Scrabble Slam, which is completely amazing by the way, and after a few rounds I suggested that we play the puppy memory game. This was met by groans and I was teased even more, but it turned out to be so much fun that we played it twice.

I wish I could find a picture or link to the puppy game, because it is seriously that awesome, but it doesn't appear to exist at all on the internet at all. I'm such a sucker for cute puppies.

Friday, January 1, 2010

December Recap and Year End Results

Despite the setbacks that we had regarding where to put our money, our emergency fund was fully funded right at the very end of December. Now with that in place, we can move forward towards other more tangible goals. My husband still has about 19k left in student loans, so now we are going to start focusing more attention on those, while also funneling money towards eventually buying a house, as well as a new car fund.

I had three major goals for 2009: to pay off my car loan, to set up and fully fund a Roth IRA, and to fully fund our emergency fund. Despite the fact that we lacked a proper budget for most of the year and my frequent trips to the dark side of shopping, we managed to do all of those things.

We are starting off 2010 with a written budget, and it is my goal to really track all of our spending for the year. My husband is resistant to the idea, saying that it is too strict and that we won't have fun, but I think it's necessary to determine if we are actually doing what we want to be doing. Saving for the emergency fund kind of bummed me out, because now it can't be touched. The thought of actually saving for something - a home of our own - really excites me. It excites me a lot more than a new purse or a new pair of shoes does.

I also want to blog more this year, since the whole point of doing this was to keep myself accountable. I need more transparency. I think that the only way I can make progress towards my goals is if I will be embarrassed if I fail.

So goodbye, 2009. Hello, 2010.